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Key US-EU trade talks cancelled
Publication Date : 06-10-2013
Discussions over a trade pact, potentially the world's largest and covering over 820 million people, has been cancelled due to shutdown
The government shutdown in the United States has dealt a blow to its efforts in inking ambitious trade and investment deals with major economic partners in Europe and Asia.
A key round of talks this week with the European Union (EU) to seal the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) was cancelled yesterday as the crisis on Capitol Hill entered its fifth day.
And over in Bali, US officials battled to put a positive spin on the country's trade relations with Asia in the wake of President Barack Obama's no-show at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit.
Discussions over the trade pact, potentially the world's largest and covering over 820 million people, were supposed to take place in Brussels tomorrow, after a first round of talks was successfully completed in Washington in July.
But European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said yesterday that his US counterpart Michael Froman called to say that Washington would not be able to send its delegation because of the government shutdown.
The shutdown was triggered when the Republican-led House of Representatives refused to pass the new government Budget unless Obama's key health care reform is delayed. Obama has refused to agree to the condition.
De Gucht said that while the cancellation was "clearly regrettable", the EU and the US were "strongly committed to see the process through".
A spokesman for the US trade representative added later that the department will work with the European Commission to craft an alternative work plan that can begin as soon as the US government shutdown ends.
Meanwhile, Froman himself was smoothing over ruffled feathers in Asia at a press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The two officials played down Obama's absence at the Apec annual leaders' summit and reiterated the US' commitment to trade with the Asia-Pacific region.
"The US exports more than US$1 trillion worth of goods and services to the Apec countries. These exports support millions of hard-working Americans' jobs," said Froman.
The US Trade Representative also underlined the importance of the 21-member grouping to the overall goal of restarting stalled trade talks at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Apec trade and finance ministers had met for two days during the ongoing summit to discuss this and other issues.
"There is a hopeful sign this week of our ability to work together and make progress at the WTO," said Froman. "If we succeed...it can provide impetus to a multilateral trading system."